Summary: God would take Abraham to the limit of obedience when He asked for Isaac as a sacrifice
Native hunters in the jungles of Africa have a clever way of trapping monkeys.
They slice a coconut in two, hollow it out, and in one half of the shell cut a hole just big enough for a monkey’s hand to pass through. Then they place an orange in the other coconut half before fastening together the two halves of the coconut shell. Finally, they secure the coconut to a tree with a rope, retreat into the jungle, and wait.
Sooner or later, an unsuspecting monkey swings by, smells the delicious orange, and discovers its location inside the coconut. The monkey then slips his hand through the small hole, grasps the orange, and tries to pull it through the hole. Of course, the orange won’t come out; it’s too big for the hole. To no avail the persistent monkey continues to pull and pull, never realizing the danger he is in.
While the monkey struggles with the orange, the hunters simply stroll in and capture the monkey by throwing a net over him. As long as the monkey keeps his fist wrapped around the orange, the monkey is trapped.
It’s too bad-the poor monkey could save its own life if it would let go of the orange. It rarely occurs to a monkey, however, that it can’t have both the orange and its freedom.
Today we will discover the long awaited promise of God to Abraham and the test to determine his willingness to let go of the orange.
Let’s begin with Genesis 21:1-3 “The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. And Abraham named their son Isaac.”
It had been 25 years since God’s promise was first announced. But He kept his word. He promised Sarah that she would have a child. And He kept his word. And it happened at God’s determined time.
Problems erupt when we try to get ahead of God’s timing. In promising Abraham a son, Sarah would benefit by becoming a mother. However, she determined to do it the world’s way. She gave her slave to Abraham as a concubine so that she could build a family through her. But Hagar’s pregnancy only built a bitter root in Sarah and she and her unborn child was sent into the desert to die. God protected her and she returned. But this was one problem that would not go away and created an uncomfortable situation for Abraham.
Genesis 21: 8-10 “When Isaac grew up and was about to be weaned, Abraham prepared a huge feast to celebrate the occasion. But Sarah saw Ishmael—the son of Abraham and her Egyptian servant Hagar—making fun of her son, Isaac. So she turned to Abraham and demanded, ‘Get rid of that slave woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!’”
Now Ishmael is doing what any older brother would do, having fun at little brother’s expense. He’s about 14 years older than Isaac and probably a bit rambunctious. His father is the master of the tribe but his mother is a slave with no rights to the master’s wife. He sees his mom mistreated on a daily bases and his father doing nothing about it. Plenty of room for pent up anger on Ishmael’s part.
As for Sarah, it’s really all about the money. In all fairness, Ishmael, as the oldest son was entitled to the largest portion. Sarah is demanding that he be cut entirely from the will. And really crossing the line by making demands of her husband. This puts Abraham in an uncomfortable place. In fact, the Bible says he became greatly distressed, not knowing how to solve the situation.
God comes to him and relieves his mind. He tells him to let Hager and Ishmael leave. He promises to watch after them both and fulfill the promise made to Abraham through Ishmael.
What promise? Remember is name was Abram, which meant exalted father. Now his name is Abraham, which meant father of many nations. Isaac would be one nation, Israel. But Ishmael’s descendants would be many nations scattered throughout the Middle East. And, just as it is today, the Jewish nation and the Muslim nations all claim Abraham as their father. So Abraham sends them away.
Ishmael will return for his father’s funeral and he will die at the age of 137 years. He also will have 12 sons along with two daughters. These 12 sons will become 12 tribes and they will be hostile toward the descendants of Isaac.
Genesis 22:1-2 “Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. ‘Abraham!’ God called.